Long-Term Care is a “hot” financial topic. It is on the minds of many! We tell people, “Forget about Long-Term Care insurance for a minute, you need to have a conversation about developing a game plan as to how you and your family will deal with this kind of event if it happens”. What kind of “financial shape” are you in? If you have done a financial plan, how stressed is your retirement income strategy, to absorb the estimated future cost of Long-Term Care? What are the current costs and what might they be in the future? Will your children be able to help? Should we transfer some or all of the risk? What about cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s? How likely are you to experience a Long-Term Care situation?

In the Baltimore-Washington corridor, median costs range from $20,500 annually for adult day health care to over $135,000 annually for a private room in a nursing home. If both spouses are still living, these costs are in addition to regular household expenses. So, besides the emotional impact of a Long-Term Care event, the financial consequences can be devastating.

The statistics tell us that there is a 60% chance that one spouse will experience a Long-Term Care situation. What unfolds? Generally speaking you do not go directly into a Long-Term Care facility. Your body and mind will generally deteriorate at a different pace. You may start to lose some ability to mindfully function; you have short term memory loss, you ask the same questions within a short period of time within a conversation, you cannot follow the conversation as it “moves too fast”, you forget to take your medicine, you forget what you just ate for lunch fifteen minutes ago….. all are signs of deterioration or dementia. It can be a slow process or a quick process. On the other hand your body may start to “go down-hill”; cancer, heart issues, and the like…..this again can be a slow or quick process. If Alzheimer’s eventually sets in and your body is in good shape this could be a five to fifteen year event. How prepared are you for such a situation?

If a Long-Term Care situation starts to manifest life becomes somewhat one-dimensional; time at home will increase, hospital and doctor visits increase, travel decreases, selling your second home starts to look like a good idea, leisure spending decreases, and medical costs increase, often substantially. Your children will most likely become more involved, your ability to drive becomes impaired, tensions increase, and so what you were spending in retirement shifts from fun, travel, seeing the kids……to medical costs increase, increase in family “tensions”, and a decrease in activity spending. Not a very good “Kodak” picture.
Will your spouse have the ability to take care of you? Can your children help? This could be a difficult plan because your children have their own life to lead, their own children to tend to, they may be out of town, and nobody wants to be a burden. Family issues, medical issues can become quite complex. But in more cases than not the children step up and will bring whatever resources and time they have to the family. Is this what you want? Is this your plan?

As with everything we talk about in this column, the solution is plan, plan, plan. How will you and your family handle both the emotional and financial aspects of a Long-Term Care event.,, You have to look at the big picture and build a plan. It is not easy but a family conversation, before anything happens is desirable.